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SECTION III

OF THE BREATH AND WHIRLING CURRENTS (SINGING FORWARD)

The veriest beginner knows that in order
to use the breath to the fullest advantage,
it must remain very long diffused back in
the mouth. A mistaken idea of "singing
forward " misleads most to press it forward
and thus allow it to be speedily dissipated.

The column of breath coming in an unin-
terrupted stream from the larynx, must,' as
soon as it flows into the form prepared for
it according to the required tone, by the
tongue and palate, fill this form, soaring
through all its corners, with its vibrations.
It makes whirling currents, which circulate
in the elastic form surrounding it, and it
must remain there till the tone is high
enough, strong enough, and sustained enough

27


28 HOW TO SING

to satisfy the judgment of the singer as well
as the ear of the listener. Should there be
lacking the least element of pitch, strength,
or duration, the tone is imperfect and does
not meet the requirement.

Learning and teaching to hear is the first
task of both pupil and teacher. One is
impossible without the other. It is the
most difficult as well as the most grateful
task, and it is the only way to reach perfec-
tion.

Even if the pupil unconsciously should
produce a flawless, tone, it is the teacher's
duty to acquaint him clearly with the causes
of it. It is not enough to sing well; one
must also know how one does it. The
teacher must tell the pupil constantly, mak-
ing him describe clearly his sensations in
singing, and understand fully the physio-
logical factors that cooperate to produce
them.

The sensations in singing must coincide
with mine as here described, if they are to


BREATH AND WHIRLING CURRENTS 29

be considered as correct; for mine are based
logically on physiological causes and corre-
spond precisely with the operation of these
causes. Moreover, all my pupils tell me —
often, to be sure, not till many months have
passed — how exact my explanations are;
how accurately, on the strength of them,
they have learned to feel the physiological
processes. They have learned, slowly, to be
sure, to become conscious of their errors and
false impressions; for it is very difficult to
ascertain such mistakes and false adjust-
ments of the organs. False sensations in
singing and disregarded or false ideas of
physiological processes cannot immediately
be stamped out. A Jong time is needed for
the mind to be able to form a clear image
of those processes, and not till then can
knowledge and improvement be expected.
The teacher must repeatedly explain the phy-
siological processes, the pupil repeatedly dis-
close every confusion and uncertainty he
feels, until the perfect consciousness of his


30 HOW TO SING

sensations in singing is irrevocably impressed
upon his memory, that is, has become a
habit.

Among a hundred singers hardly one can
be found whose single tones meet every re-
quirement. And among a thousand listen-
ers, even among teachers, and among artists,
hardly one hears it.

I admit that such perfect tones sometimes,
generally quite unconsciously, are heard from
young singers, and especially from begin-
ners, and never fail to make an impression.
The teacher hears that they are good, so
does the public. Only a very few know
why, .even among singers, because only a
very few know the laws governing perfect
tone production. Their talent, their ear
perchance, tell them the truth; but the
causes they neither know nor look for.

On such "unconscious singing" directors,
managers, and even conductors, build mis-
takenly their greatest hopes. No one hears
what is lacking, or what will soon be lack-


BREATH AND WHIELING CUEEENTS 31

ing, and all are surprised when experienced
singers protest against it.

They become enthusiastic, properly, over
beautiful voices, but pursue quite the wrong
path in training them for greater tasks. As
soon as such persons are obtained, they are
immediately bundled into all r⩽ they
have hardly time to learn one r61e by heart,
to say nothing of comprehending it and
working it up artistically. The stars must
shine immediately! But with what re-
sources? With the fresh voice alone? Who
is there to teach them to use their resources
on the stage? Who to husband them for
the future ? The manager ? the director ?
Not at all. When- the day comes that
they can no longer perform what, not they
themselves, but the directors, expected of
them, they are put to one side, and if they
do not possess great energy and strength,
often entirely succumb. They could not
►meet the demands made upon them, because
they did not know how to use their resources.

32 ' HOW TO SING

I shall be told that tones well sung, even
unconsciously, are enough. But that is not
true. The least unfavourable circumstance,
overexertion, indisposition, an unaccustomed
situation, anything can blow out the " uncon-
scious " one's light, or at least make it nicker
badly. Of any self-help, when there is igno-
rance of all the fundamentals, there can be no
question. Any help is grasped at. Then ap-
pears the so-called (but false) " individuality,"
under whose mask so much that is bad pre-
sents itself to art and before the public.

This is not remarkable, in view of the com-
plexity of the phenomena of song. Few
teachers concern themselves with the funda-
mental studies; they often do not sing at all
themselves, or they sing quite wrongly; and
consequently can neither describe the vocal
sensations nor test them in others. Theory
alone is of no value whatever. With old
singers the case is often quite the contrary —
so both seize whatever help they can lay hold
of. The breath, that vibrates against the


BEEATH AND WHIELING CUEKENTS 33

soft palate, when it is raised, or behind it in
the cavities of the head, produces whirling
currents through its continuous streaming
forth and its twofold division. These cur-
rents can circulate only in unbroken complete-
ness of form. The longer their form remains
unimpaired, and the more economically the
continuous breath pressure is maintained, the .
less breath do these currents need, the less is
emitted unused from the mouth.

If an elastic form is found in the mouth in
which the currents can circulate untouched by
any pressure or undue contraction or expan-
sion of it, the breath becomes practically un-
limited. That is the simple solution of the
paradox that without deep breathing one may
often have much breath, and, after elaborate
preparations, often none at all; because the
chief attention is generally directed to inhala-
tion, instead of to the elastic forming of the
organs for the breath, sound currents, and
tone. The one thing needed is the knowledge
of the causes, and the necessary skill in pre-


34 HOW TO SING

paring the form, avoiding all pressure that
could injure it, whether originating in the
larynx, tongue, or palate, or in the organs
that furnish the breath pressure.

The singer's endeavors, consequently, must
be directed to keeping the breath as long as
possible sounding and vibrating not only for-
ward but back in the mouth, since the reso-
nance of the tone is spread upon and above
the entire palate, extends from the front
teeth to the wall of the throat. He must
concern himself with preparing for the vibra-
tions, pliantly and with mobility, a powerful,
elastic, almost floating envelope, which must
be filled entirely, with the help of a contin-
uous vocal mixture, — a mixture of which the
components are indistinguishable.









E-Book - An Annotated Compendium of Old Time American Songs by James Alverson III